‘How are you?’ ‘Don’t talk to me about it, I am so busy at the moment, and you?’
I am sure you have been in a variant of this conversation, where you or your conversation partner were very busy. At least, that’s what I am experiencing between me and my twenty- and thirty-something peers. Besides the outspoken claim, being busy can also be read from people’s agitated way of speaking, tired eyes and pale face.
If you are relating to this, I am writing this to warn you. Beware: being busy has some dangerous side effects and might cause serious damage to your creativity, focused attention and thinking time, and thus also your photography.
Work all day, then do more work
It’s not just our workdays that are filled with frantic actions to empty that mailbox, survive meetings, network with co-workers and in the meantime chaotically jumping between all kinds of small and big tasks. Our free time as well is filled with activities to make sure we make the most of it (let alone raise a family if you’re in that situation). The pressure is raised even more for those that combine all this with a passion on the side, in this case: photography. In the beginning, it might be all fun and games, until the desire for productivity also enters this aspect of your life, and now you’re stuck with more to-do lists, activities, goals, time management strategies and wild dreams (see also my article on the three-year itch). And then what?
Who’s to blame for your busy day?
Often, we search the causes for feeling busy outside of our own control. Our society and the resulting technological advances are blamed for our scattered attention and always being connected, the internet for the wealth of information that overwhelms us on a daily basis, capitalism for installing a materialistic attitude. On a smaller scale: our boss is giving us too much work or I have to this, otherwise… (insert bad consequence) also focus on things outside of our control.
Trust me, I have used many of these sentences too. Until I became unemployed and realised I still felt busy and now was left with no-one to blame for it but me.
It is time to face the facts. Technology is here to stay, information is at our constant disposal, days could be spent consuming things and information, chances to be more productive and get ahead in life will always be there. The only thing within our control is how we deal with these things and find a balance that works for us.
Being busy is the easy road. Not being busy will involve various decisions, difficult conversations, letting go of things that are dear to you to be more engaged to those that are even dearer and actively monitoring your attention.
What is this doing on a photography blog?
First, I noticed that I, and a lot of my peers, use ‘busy’ as one of the first words to describe how they are and I am worried by this trend.
Second, I believe that one of the first things that won’t survive an increased feeling of business and overwhelm is our creativity, and thus, in this case our photography work or the quality of that photography work.
Third, the idea behind this blog is that I write about what inspires me throughout my days in the hope it will strike a chord with you. At the moment, I am in a period where I am actively thinking about my priorities and how to fit photography in my life. While doing this, I am inspired currently by a book by Tony Crabbe: ‘Busy. How to Thrive in a World of Too Much’, which explores the underlying processes of the ‘being busy’ disease of our time, accompanied by (evidence-based) practical tips. Self-help books are my guilty pleasures and this is one of the more decent ones that I’ve read lately.
Okay, but what should we do then?
I am not an expert in ‘not being busy’. In fact, I am an expert in trying to be less busy, until the next opportunity arrives and I find myself jumping at it, only to feel overwhelmed again afterwards. I cannot share with you the magical advice that will solve everything for everyone.
I can share, however, what I have tried and found useful for me, and what I will try more in the future. These tips can be used for any activity, but I will focus specifically to how this ties in with photography.
However, if you are reading this and relating to this, I am guessing you have all kinds of things still on your to-do list for the day. Therefore, I decided to split this article in shorter, more manageable reads. Over the coming weeks, I will dive deeper into this topic, so stay tuned (unless I decide I am too busy again and stop writing this blog… just kidding… I guess).
Start off by saying no
If you would like to actively take part, alongside me, in a journey to being (or more importantly: feeling) less busy, here are two starting points:
- Say no to something you’d normally say yes to this week OR cut down one planned activity (feel free to refer to this blog if people ask you why) without immediately filling this hole in your agenda with something new.
- It is Sunday night now, an ideal time to reflect on the upcoming week. Decide what, to you, the most important task for your upcoming week is. It can be something at work, but can also be related to your personal or creative development. Then tomorrow, before you do any other task, set aside a block of time to work on this task. For example, I will set two hours apart tomorrow morning to start writing the next article for this series of blog posts. I will turn off the internet for this period of time.
Stay tuned for more in the upcoming articles with tips and experiences.